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Costa Rica Cloud Forests – 2011 – Part 2

November 18, 2011

Green-crowned Brilliant (L) and Violet Sabrewing (R) at Cafe Colibri, Monteverde Cloud Forest

Day 2 in the Cloud Forest:

After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans and rice, fried plantains, watermelon and papaya, we drove up to the Monteverde Reserve again for the first of our birding walks on their trails. On the way we stopped at a tiny grocery store and noticed a small group of people birding at the edge of the forest. We asked them what they were seeing – another good way to find birds! They were happy to share views of a Blue-crowned Motmot in their telescope – a striking bird with a 7-inch-long tai with paddle-like tips on the middle 2 feathers. The motmot wasn’t a new bird for us, but a few minutes later I spotted a bird walking on the ground about 50 feet away that turned out to be Lifer #2 for us – an Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush. You never know when a new bird will show up. By the way, you can go to and see photos of all the birds mentioned in my blogs. Also, has videos of many species.

The Monteverde Reserve is a very popular destination – with as many locals visiting as tourists from all over the world. It’s always satisfying to see local people enjoying their own natural wonders and how much they appreciate them. We hiked first on the Sendero (trail) Quebrada Cuecha, where our first birds were Common Bush-tanagers. We also found Gray-breasted Wood-wrens, Black-faced Solitaires and a Sooty Robin. The birds were few and far between, and tough work to find with all the vegetation. Birders really do rely on calls and songs in these jungles, but we’re just not that good at it – yet.

Some birders use the “play back” technique – they record the sound a bird is making, then play it back to draw the bird closer. Other birders distain this method, thinking that it disturbs the birds too much – the birds have to waste too much energy chasing “fake” intruders out of their territory. So we heard lots of birds we never saw. And since we’re not that familiar with all their sounds, we usually weren’t able to identify them. Although, just hearing all that forest cacophony is a wonderful experience, even if you can’t see who’s making the noises.

The Reserve is well-run, with many knowledgeable guides, and lots of birds – if you can find them. The green paradise of cloud forest with its damp, lush vegetation – towering trees, brightly-colored flowers, vines, lichens, mosses, orchids and other bromeliads, ferns, shrubbery – always makes finding the birds a challenge. We did manage to see a Golden-crowned Warbler, a White-throated Spadebill, and Slaty-throated Redstarts – all as intriguing as their names. Many of the trees and vines were covered with pink and yellow blooms, and one kind of vine burgeoned with masses of blooms hanging everywhere. We decided it had to be related to begonias.

The trails at the Monteverde Reserve are impressive. They’re constructed out of a grid of concrete blocks – shaped somewhat like our paver stones, so water seeps through them – and the trails don’t get muddy, sloppy, or slippery, and the blocks provide a sturdy foundation to walk on. Some of the trails are edged with wood – 2 x 6’s nestled down into the soil, then filled with chips or gravel, providing a non-muddy, non-slippery surface on which to walk. Both of these systems make good, stable trails that can take a lot of use in all kinds of weather.

At lunch time, we drove back down the “Burma Road” and stopped at the Monteverde Dairy Store, which was founded in the late 1940’s when Quakers from the U.S. settled in the area. A group of  44 pacifist Quaker families left the U.S. when they decided they did not want to participate in the Korean War, and they bought land and started a huge cattle industry, producing beef and dairy products. They selected Costa Rica since it had no army and the high, cool elevation of the area was conducive to cattle grazing. We bought some of their cheese and ate some of their ice cream – the Guyabana Sherbet being my favorite – white, icy, and tasting sort of sweet lemony. The Guyabana fruit is also called Sour Sop and made a very good smoothie. We ate the rich, delicious cheese later with crackers and apples, which we had picked up at the “Super Marcado” in Santa Elena.

After a rest at our cabin, we drove back up to Café Calibri, had another te and café, and watched more fantastic hummingbirds – feeding, zooming in and out, diving, slurping up sugar water, perching nearby, and then zooming again – close enough that I could feel the whir of their wings as they whizzed past me. It is a spectacular sight, which always attracts lots of tourists with very long lenses on huge cameras. The largest hummer there was the 6-inch Violet Sabrewing – with a curved bill as long as its head. Among the 7 or 8 more varieties of hummers we saw was the aptly-named Purple-throated Mountain-gem.

For dinner that night, we walked from our lodge to the Tree House Restaurant, which was built in a large old fig tree accessed by a spiral staircase, with tables overlooking the street below – all open air.  We had good fruit drinks and casados – my favorite typical Tican meal – a serving of meat (beef, chicken, pork or fish), beans, rice, plantains, and a salad of some kind – and watched the busy street below. After dinner we walked around the busy, small town for a while – narrow sidewalks, small food shops, the “Super Marcado”, agencies for tourist tours (coffee plantations, zip lining, volcanoes, etc.), taxi stands, bus stops, a small church that seemed very busy, a couple of pensions and hostels, lots of young people – college age – walking around with backpacks, lots of stray dogs, motorcycles, ATVs, a golf cart or two, and the every present “tourismo” buses. After another stop at the Super Mercado for more lunch items and a short walk back to our cabina, we were glad to end another day in the green paradise in Costa Rica.


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  1. Diane permalink

    It’s almost like being there. Great adventures. The blowup of the picture is fantastic. Thanks for sharing with everyone.

  2. Thanks, Di! That’s the desired response!

  3. sarahdavisdean permalink

    I agree with Diane! And your write up sure makes me want to visit this amazing place! Thanks.


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